Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf
|Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf|
|captive wolf at Grouse Mountain|
C. l. crassodon
|Canis lupus crassodon|
|Historical and present range of grey wolf subspecies in North America|
Canis crassodon crassodon
The Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf or Vancouver Coastal Island wolf (Canis lupus crassodon) is a subspecies of grey wolf, endemic to Great Bear Rainforest and northern Vancouver Island within the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. It lives in packs of about five to twenty. There are estimated to be less than 180 wolves on Vancouver Island. These coastal wolves are popularly known as Sea wolves. Vancouver has two types of coastal wolves: the island or Sea wolves, are different than mainland coastal wolves. The Sea wolf's main food source is seafood, making up 90% of its diet. Salmon accounts for nearly a quarter of their diet. They also forage on barnacles, clams, herring eggs, seals, river otters, and whale carcasses.
These Sea wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest are distance swimmers. There are packs living on the big island off the coast, which is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Bella Bella, and there is no other way for wolves to get there – except to swim. They are not sedentary and many of them migrate through the archipelago, swimming from island to island throughout the year. At times, they follow the salmon, but other times they show up even when there's no salmon to be found. That's because Sea wolves have a diverse diet. A recent study found that it can be up to 90 percent marine-based: lone wolves takedown seals and otters, while packs have been spotted feasting on the occasional whale carcass. The carnivores also, surprisingly, eat shellfish. Using their paws, they dig in the sand for clams, and use their powerful jaws to crack open the shells of mussels. Sea wolves are fast, powerful swimmers and move stealthily in the water, their backs and bodies submerged and with only their eyes, ears and snouts peeking above the surface.
Sea wolf is recognized as a subspecies of Canis lupus in the taxonomic authority Mammal Species of the World (2005). Studies using mitochondrial DNA have indicated that the wolves of coastal south-east Alaska are genetically distinct from inland grey wolves, reflecting a pattern also observed in other taxa. They show a phylogenetic relationship with extirpated wolves from the south (Oklahoma), indicating that these wolves are the last remains of a once widespread group that has been largely extirpated during the last century and that the wolves of northern North America had originally expanded from southern refuges below the Wisconsin glaciation after the ice had melted at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. These findings call into question the taxonomic classification of C.l. nulibus proposed by Nowak. Another study found that the wolves of coastal British Columbia were genetically and ecologically distinct from the inland wolves, including other wolves from inland British Columbia. A study of the three coastal wolves indicated a close phylogenetic relationship across regions that are geographically and ecologically contiguous, and the study proposed that Canis lupus ligoni (Alexander Archipelago wolf), Canis lupus columbianus (British Columbia wolf), and Canis lupus crassodon (Vancouver Sea wolf) should be recognized as a single subspecies of Canis lupus.
In 2016, two studies compared the DNA sequences of 42,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in North American grey wolves and found the coastal wolves to be genetically and phenotypically distinct from other wolves. They share the same habitat and prey species, and form one of the study's 6 identified ecotypes - a genetically and ecologically distinct population separated from other populations by their different type of habitat. The local adaptation of a wolf ecotype most likely reflects the wolf's preference to remain in the type of habitat that it was born into. Wolves that prey on fish and small deer in wet, coastal environments tend to be smaller than other wolves.
In 2016, a study of mitochondrial DNA sequences of both modern and ancient wolves generated a phylogenetic tree which indicated that the two most basal North American haplotypes included the Mexican wolf and the Vancouver Sea wolf.
The Vancouver Sea wolf is of medium size, measuring roughly 26 to 32 inches high, 4 to 5 feet from nose to end of tail, and weighing roughly 60 lbs. It is usually a mix of grey, brown, and black. Occasionally, they are seen pure white.
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